Robin Comey, House District 102

CONNECTICUT — The 2020 election is heating up in Connecticut and there are plenty of races with candidates eager to serve in elected office. Eyes are primarily focused on the presidential election, but every state representative and senate seat is up for grabs.

All five of Connecticut’s congressional seats are up for grabs as well.

There are 151 seats in the state House of Representatives and 36 in the state Senate. Democrats currently hold majorities in both chambers with a 91 to 60 lead over Republicans in the House and a 22 to 14 lead in the Senate.

Connecticut Patch asked candidates to answer questions about their campaigns.

Robin Comey, a Branford resident, is running for House of Representatives District 102.

Age: 53

Party affiliation: Democratic Party

Family: Husband David Steinman and two children Maddie and Michael

Occupation: Executive Director Branford Early Childhood Collaborative 5 years and partner in family business Starprompt – 28 years

Previous elected experience: State Representative 102nd District

Family members in government: No

Campaign website: www.RobinComey.com

The single most pressing issue facing our state is _______, and this is what I intend to do about it.
Clearly the single most pressing issue facing our state is the COVID-19 pandemic, plus the downstream impact it has had on our economy, our school children, and our elderly living at home or in convalescent care. The Governor has done an outstanding job keeping us all safe and our direct care workers – doctors, nurses, medical first responders, police – are the heroes of our lifetime as they and all the other essential workers work on the front lines. It will take a long time to recover from the avalanche of COVID’s aftermath, but I am confident we’ll come back stronger than ever.

I’ve spent every day for the last six months working hard to help our neighbors cope with the pandemic, resolving unemployment issues, getting critical PPE for childcare programs, so they could stay open for the children of essential workers, and helping small businesses with their applications for federal financial relief.

I am committed to working with both sides in the legislature to build back our economy.

During my first term in office, our Rainy Day Fund reached 15% for the first time, a milestone that could not have come at a better time. It will help us weather the losses in revenue caused by the pandemic and protect Branford from deep cuts in state aid.

We are not out of the woods yet, and we need to be flexible as a state. I support the work we are already doing being guided by public health experts and the scientists in this state who have dedicated so much to helping us navigate the pandemic. I will be supporting and working with my colleagues to build a support system for our families and our businesses. We need policies that are responsive to the shifting needs of our state residents, including reliable public education, childcare and stable housing for seniors and families.

What are the critical differences between you and the other candidates seeking this post?

I believe that keeping an open dialogue with our neighbors and my legislative colleagues across the aisle is the only way we can be successful in solving problems. I’ve been a vocal advocate for Branford on healthcare, economic development, education, the environment and public health. In 2019, prior to the pandemic, I passed a law increasing access in public places to lifesaving EpiPens that treat severe allergic reactions. I’ve worked with industries in healthcare, real estate and the beauty industry to pass laws that protect consumers and grow the workforce.

I’ve secured millions of dollars for Branford projects, and supported Paid Family Medical Leave, increasing the minimum wage, and Ethan’s Law to protect our children from gun violence. And I opposed school regionalization because it’s not the answer to improving quality education for our children.

My opponent has a long history of voting against funding for education, police and their services and the environment. My opponent does not believe that compromises are necessary in policy making and his actions show over and over that he is unwilling to come to the table, and work across the aisle, to find solutions.

As a legislator, I listen to and ask questions covering all the angles of an issue. I do the research needed to make the best decision I possibly can for the situation I am given. I have proven I have the temperament to proudly represent our community.

What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?

My record is clear and has been outlined in many of the other answers I have provided. Holding this job takes tenacity and endurance. During my first term I have been available for my constituents day or night. I have been told by Branford residents that I have changed their opinion of politicians forever and that I am a true public servant. This job requires the full commitment of a person who has a love of policy-making and recognizes that good policies can improve people’s lives.

Do you believe Connecticut needs reform when it comes to electric utility oversight? What steps, if any should be taken?

Absolutely. The conduct of Eversource this past year, from the stunning and unacceptable rate hikes the company imposed on its customers to its abysmal response to storm damage is proof that we need to hold them accountable. I intend to have a voice at the table as we investigate and take appropriate action to bring Eversource in line with both the technical needs and user affordability of their customers. The Take Back the Grid Act that we have wide support for will be an important framework providing consumer protection and lay out expectations for improved corporate standards.

What steps should state government take to bolster economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic for local businesses?

As a small business owner, I know firsthand how the pandemic has affected us. We should continue to recognize that small businesses are the drivers of our economy and make all efforts possible to support them. I’m a member of the legislature’s bioscience caucus and sponsored several laws that support CT’s growing technology and bioscience industry. CT ranks #4 in the nation for bioscience patents, and we need to keep that trend going with innovative, pro-science initiatives.

During this pandemic I have worked closely with the business community including being available for weekly calls to the Shoreline Chamber of Commerce and a network of other small business owners to keep them informed of the resources that are available to them. I have listened to small business owners and restaurant owners, and together we discussed specific ways that the state could better support them. I have advocated to the Governor on behalf of our small business community for rent relief and PPE.

Our non-profit organizations were hit particularly hard during the pandemic, and we have to find ways to help them emerge from the pandemic whole. Over the summer I advocated to the Office of Policy and Management on behalf of organizations, like BH Care, who provide care for our most vulnerable residents. BH Care and nonprofits across the state were being excluded from COVID Relief Funds because they received PPP loans. I successfully advocated to change that initial eligibility decision, saving millions of dollars for non-profits at a crucial time.

During the pandemic we supported small businesses by allowing municipalities to delay the collection of property taxes, and we delayed due dates for state income taxes while families and businesses were suffering the most. These are the types of solutions that help in the short term. Going forward we need to focus on supporting the long term tax reductions we have put in place with the previous budget.

In 2019, we eliminated the business entity tax and extended the Angel Investor Tax Credit Program by 5 years, an important program to encourage entrepreneurship and attract new companies to the state. We will be moving forward in Special Session with implementing the Transfer Act, which shortens the time for environmental audits for businesses buying properties from parties that had environmental issues in the past.

List other issues that define your campaign platform:

Many people are trying to raise their families on piecing together low paid service industry jobs or not working at all. Poverty is the single most important enemy to the health, well-being and success of our residents, and we continue to see too much income disparity in this state.
In my first term as State Representative I have had the pleasure of becoming active in the 2Gen Advisory Council. The State of Connecticut was the first state to adopt comprehensive two-generational legislation that links early learning, adult education, housing, job training, transportation, financial literacy and other related support services. The goal of two-generational policy is family economic self-sufficiency. We are looking at the work we can do across agencies and sectors and if we are successful in this work we can create generations of secure and productive families.

What else would you like voters to know about yourself and your positions?

I am a relentless advocate for Branford’s working families, with a long record of public service. Their concerns matter to me, and I am proudly running on my record of listening to all sides, deep study of the issue, and making the best decision for the citizens of Branford. I am confident our community will rebound from this difficult year even stronger than before, and I look forward to helping make that happen.

This article originally appeared on the Branford Patch

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